ICYMI: Sing, dance and taste roast pig at new Filipino restaurant

Ora Sawyers

Cebuanos had its grand opening at 106 Carden St. on April 6

This article was previously published on GuelphToday.

Mary Joy Lagamon is staying true to her roots by bringing Filipino cuisine to Downtown Guelph.

Opening Cebuanos, a lechon and karaoke restaurant, was never part of Lagamon’s plan when she moved to Canada from the Philippines in 2005. 

On April 6, Lagamon and her husband Joseph threw a grand opening party filled with live music, karaoke, and of course lechon, also known as spit roasted pig. Joseph’s specialty is cooking lechon and Lagamon’s is making pancit, a vermicelli noodle dish with vegetables and meat.

Lagamon’s intention when she moved here with her husband and daughters KC and Peachy was to be a registered nurse. Her credentials from the Philippines needed to be upgraded in order for her to practice nursing here. She went back to school while working and taking care of her children, with new addition, Paula.

The program at Conestoga didn’t work out the way she planned and it wasn’t feasible to try to do full-time school, work and be a mom.

She worked as a personal support worker and her last job before opening the restaurant was working at Shearer’s Foods. Lagamon’s idea to run a lechon restaurant came from her catering business. The business started after a birthday celebration where the meals were potluck style. Of course she brought pancit. Since so many people asked who made it and if they could order it for their celebrations she figured a catering business would be right up her alley.

Lagamon was a bit scared to start this new endeavour because “it’s a gamble.” With the support of her family, friends and catering clients pushing her to do it she knew it was something she should do.

She and her husband decided if they couldn’t find a spot for Cebuanos they would move back to the Philippines. That’s where 106 Carden St. came in. 

It has ample seating and enough space for a karaoke stage. Plus, there was already a kitchen Lagamon modified to suit her needs.

There is a hot food bar where noodles, shrimp, pork and other traditional Filipino food is served. People are welcomed to stay and eat or takeout. Cebuanos is open Tuesday through Sunday. Hours are varied since they are figuring out what times work best for people in the downtown core.

Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights is free for now. When the restaurant gets its liquor license it plans to charge a cover fee which would include one free drink.

Singing is a huge part of Filipino culture. Lagamon’s favourite songs to sing are Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler and I Know Him So Well by Barbara Dickson and Elaine Paige. She likes to sing to her husband. 

From Friday to Sunday the restaurant serves what it’s known for – lechon. Her daughter Peachy recommends people come early because it tends to sell out fast. For the grand opening there were three roast pigs and Lagamon said if there were eight to 10 more made for the weekend everyone would have had a plate.

Lagamon said there is a large Filipino community in Guelph. Part of the purpose of her and her husband running the restaurant is to have authentic Filipino food for people to enjoy outside their homes. If there was a place like this when they were raising their children, Lagamon would have cooked at home less. 

“For me, rice is life,” said Lagamon. As much as she loves rice, part of it comes from her family back home. Her 72-year-old dad is still a rice farmer. Lagamon gets her work ethic from her mom who was a business minded woman.

Lagamon is proud of herself and family. Her daughters all help out at the restaurant and her youngest, Paula, comes by after high school to stock shelves and clean dishes.

In the future she hopes to expand Cebuanos with more locations. Because she runs her own business she thinks this will allow her to retire by 55. Then she will have more time to visit her dad.

It feels good to be supported and have people from Guelph, Palmerston, Cambridge, Kitchener, Hamilton, Brampton and as far as New York City come by Cebuanos to try her food.

“We made it,” said Lagamon.

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